Advocacy at Temple Jeremiah is focused on social justice issues and has two primary facets: 1) to educate our congregants and people from other faith-based organizations about social justice issues, and 2) teach people how to communicate their opinions on local, state, and federal programs and legislation to their elected officials.
To date, Temple Jeremiah advocacy efforts have focused on immigration, food insecurity, anti-hunger issues, the criminal justice system, and issues related to individuals with special needs. Other social justice issues are continually monitored for potential involvement by the congregation.
Everyone is created in Tselem Elohim-the Image of God. The basic ideas of the Jewish tradition require all communities and societies to protect the welfare of their members and citizens and to develop the conditions necessary for the maintenance of safety and health. When the rabbis in the Talmud come across a case in society that is not specifically covered by a Mitzvah in Torah, but nevertheless has to be addressed, they base their rulings on a simple verse in the Torah: “And you shall do that which is Yashar and Tov – righteous and good” (Deuteronomy 6:18). So should we.
We believe that common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence.
We want to educate and mobilize supporters to take action that will result in stronger laws and policies to save lives.
Mental Health Initiative Platform
Individuals with mental illness should have equal opportunity to fully participating in society. To achieve this, Temple Jeremiah:
- Believes everyone should have equal access to quality mental health providers regardless of their socioeconomic background.
- Supports education to all age groups about mental health to promote understanding and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
In 2018, the Temple Jeremiah Social Justice Committee took on the issue of mental health awareness and advocacy. Access to mental health care for all and paying attention to overall mental well-being is an important issue that benefits everyone in society. Temple Jeremiah is partnering with Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS; www.jcfs.org) to provide support to congregants in the areas of mental health and social services. Contact Temple Liaison Dawn Levin at 847.745.5450 for more information. We are also proud to partner with the following advocacy organizations: NAMI (the country’s largest mental health organization dedicated to advocacy and support) www.nami.org; NoShameOnYou (a local organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma of mental health conditions) www.noshameonyou.org; Community Behavioral Healthcare Association of Illinois (a statewide organization that works to ensure access to quality behavioral healthcare services for Illinois) www.cbha.net; Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (a Jewish social justice group, RAC works on the federal and statewide level to advocate for many social justice issues) www.rac.org.
- Justice should be color blind
- Punishment should be just
- The ability to get fair, just treatment should not depend on income
To visit our Criminal Justice page, click here.
- Our nation is stronger when we welcome those of different race, ethnicity, and faith traditions.
- Our nation will be stronger with clear paths toward citizenship for immigrants.
- All people within our nation should be treated with dignity and respect.
To visit our Immigration page, click here.
The Temple Jeremiah Advocacy Platform holds that we:
- Believe no one should go hungry
- Support access to healthy, fresh, nutritional food for everyone
- Support and protect food assistance programs
- Need to eliminate barriers to food access for everyone
To visit our Hunger page, click here.
Individuals with special needs should have equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of society. To that end we strive to:
- Support access to individual housing options within a community
- Support and protect social services that maintain health and family unity
- Eliminate barriers to housing and social services
To visit our Inclusion page, click here.
Illinois Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC-IL)
RAC-IL is working to finalize potential social justice campaigns focusing on upcoming the legislation in the 2019 Illinois General Assembly; a key factor includes determining where the collectively organized voice of the Reform Jewish community is most needed to make a meaningful impact in our priority area(s) of immigrant justice and/or criminal justice reform. If you are passionate about one of these areas contact Rabbi Cohen.
Possible Campaigns include:
- Immigration Justice: Strengthening the Illinois TRUST Act
- Immigration Justice: Statewide Immigrant Family Legal Defense Fund
- Criminal Justice: Sentencing Reform
- Criminal Justice: Community Re-entry
- Criminal Justice: Juvenile Justice Reform
- Criminal Justice: Community-Based Prevention and Intervention Strategies
Immigration Justice: Strengthening the Illinois TRUST Act
The Illinois TRUST Act of 2017 was designed to build trust between law enforcement agencies and immigrant communities by limiting local police involvement with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This statute provides that local police cannot detain individuals for ICE without a warrant issued by a federal judge, and they cannot stop, search, or arrest anyone based on that person’s immigration or citizenship status.
During 2018, there were efforts to strengthen and build on provisions of the TRUST Act. Last fall, the General Assembly, overriding the Governor’s veto, passed legislation that provides protections for immigrants who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or other specified offenses. This law is designed to encourage victims to report crimes to the police without fear of arrest, detention, or deportation by federal authorities.
Recent proposals in 2019
- Limit involvement of designated state-funded entities — including schools, healthcare facilities, day care centers, libraries, and courts — with federal immigration enforcement. The objective is to ensure that these facilities remain safe and accessible to all Illinois residents. The legislation would also further restrict the involvement of state or local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities. [House Bill 1637 – Keep Illinois Families Together Act]
- Prohibit landlords from harassing, intimidating, or retaliating against a tenant by disclosing or threatening to disclose information regarding the tenant’s immigration or citizenship status.
[Senate Bill 1290 – Immigrant Tenant Protection Act]
Advocacy partners: Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois (led by Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights).
Immigration Justice: Statewide Immigrant Family Legal Defense Fund
In 2017, the new administration launched a campaign to aggressively enforce federal immigration laws through apprehension, detention, and deportation of undocumented immigrants, regardless of whether they have committed serious crimes or have been identified as posing national security threats. Those at risk of deportation include many individuals who have lived in the U.S. for decades, check in regularly with immigration officials, pose no danger to their community, and often have family members (including children) who are U.S. citizens.
Immigrants who have legal representation are nearly five times more likely to win their deportation cases than those without lawyers, but the U.S. government does not offer appointed counsel to immigrants facing deportation. In 2017 the City of Chicago established a Legal Protection Fund for immigrant residents of Chicago, providing legal screenings and representation, “Know Your Rights” training, and outreach and education through local Community Navigator organizations.
Recent proposal in 2019: Establish a statewide Immigrant Family Legal Defense Fund to support immigration-related legal and community-based services.
Advocacy partners: National Immigrant Justice Center, The Resurrection Project and other Community Navigator organizations, American Business Immigration Coalition.
Criminal Justice: Sentencing Reform
The Illinois prison population increased from about 10,000 in 1970 to more than 45,000 in 2000. The state’s adult correctional facilities, designed for 32,000 inmates, currently hold about 43,000. The long-term growth of incarceration is largely the result of policies that broadened the number of crimes for which offenders could be imprisoned and increased the length of sentences. These policies included mandatory minimum sentencing laws, which require judges to impose minimum prison sentences for certain crimes, and truth-in-sentencing laws, which require that inmates serve a specified proportion of their court-appointed sentences. In 2016, the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform made a comprehensive set of recommendations for change, some of which have already been enacted.
- Allow courts to deviate from mandatory minimum sentences under specified circumstances. [House Bill 1587]
- Require “Family Impact Statements” at the time of bond determination and sentencing, which would give consideration to harm to children caused by from separation from parents.
- Reduce penalties for low-level drug possession.
Advocacy partners: ACLU Illinois, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and others.
Criminal Justice: Community Re-entry
Nearly all people in prison eventually return to their home communities, but nearly half of ex-offenders return to prison within three years. Reform efforts to facilitate community re-entry and reduce recidivism focus on removing barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities for individuals with criminal records, as well as increasing access to rehabilitation and behavioral health services.
- Restrict the use of criminal histories in determining admissions to public universities and community colleges, except as required by state or federal law. [House Bill 217]
- Prohibit employers from refusing to hire or discharging an individual because of the individual’s criminal history, unless there are one or more convictions with a direct relationship to the specific employment sought.
- Provide tax incentives to landlords who rent to people with conviction records.
- Require local election officials to collaborate with county jails to facilitate voting by mail for pre-trial detainees. Require voter education for people leaving state correctional facilities.
Advocacy partners: ACLU, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Cabrini Green Legal Aid.
Criminal Justice: Juvenile Justice Reform
Cook County Juvenile Court, the first of its kind in the nation, was established by progressive reformers more than a century ago. The purpose of the court was to move children from adult jails and courts and to give them a second chance. During the 1990s, however, Illinois began to shift away from the juvenile justice model by instituting automatic prosecution of certain juvenile offenders in adult criminal court, as well as other “law-and-order” policies.
Over the past two decades, there have been efforts to reform the juvenile justice system in order to reduce the use of detention in favor of less restrictive alternatives. Illinois has decreased juvenile incarceration by two-thirds and has expanded diversion and prevention programming. Moreover, recent policy discussions reflect growing recognition of the need for developmentally appropriate policies and practices to achieve positive outcomes for emerging adults.
- End the use of detention for children under age 13. [House Bill 1468]
- Gradually raise the age cut-off for misdemeanor offenses in juvenile court to 21. [Senate Bill 239]
- Authorize the chief judge of each judicial circuit to establish a Justice for Juveniles Program, requiring legal counsel for all juveniles during custodial interrogation. [Senate Bill 65]
- End the practice of automatic transfer to adult criminal court for certain offenses.
- Fully fund youth services programs such as Redeploy Illinois, which provides a continuum of community-based services to teens who are at high risk of incarceration.
Advocacy partners: Juvenile Justice Initiative, Illinois Justice Project.
Criminal Justice: Community-Based Prevention and Intervention Strategies
Prevention strategies focus on the complex factors underlying community violence. For example, public health approaches to reducing violence involve identifying populations and communities that are at the highest risk, building on community assets, and developing evidence-based prevention and intervention programs. Another example is restorative justice practices such as victim-offender mediation, peace circles, and other methods of conflict resolution.
- Address community violence by targeting state investments to communities that have experienced high levels of gun violence, incarceration, and economic destabilization. Investments in “Safe and Full Employment Zones” would include job creation, housing, employment training, child care, healthcare, and other services. [Senate Bill 250 -̶ SAFE Act]
- Establish a Safe Schools and Healthy Learning Environments Grant Program to expand alternatives to exclusionary discipline, including school-based behavioral and mental health supports, alcoholism and substance abuse treatment, and wrap-around services. [House Bill 2084]
- Encourage the use of restorative justice practices by protecting the confidentiality of communications and restricting of the use of such communications in court proceedings. [House Bill 1458]
Advocacy partners: Illinois Justice Project, ACLU Illinois, Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Juvenile Justice Initiative.